MSU women reach NCAA Final Four

For the Mississippi State women’s basketball team, the music continues to play and the Bulldogs continue to dance.

Behind an NCAA Tournament school-record 41 points from Morgan William, No. 2 seed Mississippi State upset No. 1 seed Baylor 94-85 in overtime to win the Oklahoma City Regional being played at Chesapeake Arena.

MSU (33-4) advances to the school’s first-ever Final Four. The opponent will be two-time defending National Champion Connecticut, with the contest set for Friday in Dallas.”Our kids were resilient,” MSU head coach Vic Schaefer said. “They showed a lot of toughness, determination and character. You have no idea what is inside their breastplate, but you saw it today on full display. My point guard (William) put us on our backs today. (Victoria Vivians) was back to her normal self today.

“For the seniors, they believed in a vision when really it was not easy to believe in. I couldn’t be happier for them for the blood, sweat and tears they have put into this. There is tremendous support for women’s basketball at Mississippi State. I am awfully proud of the kids. We give God the glory for winning No. 33 today.”

The heavyweight battle featured 12 ties and 25 leads changes. The swings of emotion were similar to Mississippi State’s 75-64 win over Washington in the Sweet 16 round. The Bulldogs stayed with the Bears punch by punch with lifts at different times from Teaira McCowan and Chinwe Okorie underneath and William and Vivians from outside.

Vivians added 24 points for the Bulldogs, while McCowan added 10 points. Vivians added six rebounds and six assists, while William had three rebounds and seven assists.

William set the school record for points, field goal makes and 3-point field goal makes in a NCAA tournament game by going 13-of-22 from the field and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. Her point total was the seventh most in a game in school history. She also took over the school’s all-time lead for career assists.

William was named Most Outstanding Player, while Vivians and McCowan were named to the all-region team.

Baylor quickly built a 9-2 lead. The Bulldogs battled back with a 12-2 run for a 14-11 lead. The lead switched hands a couple of times before a 3-pointer by William gave the Bulldogs a 21-19 lead after one quarter.

In the second quarter, the Bulldogs hung tough defensively to overcome a six-minute stretch without a made basket. Four straight points by McCowan gave the Bulldogs a 34-33 lead. A layup by McCowan as the half expired gave the Bulldogs a 43-40 lead at the break.

The Bulldogs held four different five-point leads in the third quarter before a 3-pointer by William ran the lead to 58-52 with 2:10 left third quarter. Baylor finished the quarter with a 9-2 run for a 61-60 lead.

A 3-pointer by William gave the Bulldogs a 73-68 lead. The Bears rallied with seven straight points. A layup by William tied the contest at 75 with 22 seconds left. MSU then got a stop on defense to end regulation.

A 3-pointer by Vivians gave the Bulldogs the lead for good at 80-78 with 4:01 left in overtime.

For the contest, MSU hit 32 of 74 shots from the field (43.2 percent), 10 of 20 shots from 3-point range (50.0 percent) and 20 of 24 shots from the foul line (83.3 percent). Baylor hit 32 of 60 shots from the field (53.3 percent), 5 of 15 shots from 3-point range (33.3 percent) and 16 of 22 shots from the foul line (72.7 percent).

Baylor, which saw its season end for a fourth straight year in the Elite Eight, received 27 points from Kalani Brown, 18 points from Nina Davis and 16 points from Alexis Jones.